• Jennifer Snyder

Should You Buy A Car With A Salvage Title?


Example of a branded title

Cars with salvage titles (also known as rebuilt) can cost you thousands of dollars less than cars with a clean title. There are risks associated with purchasing a salvage title vehicle though. A vehicle can end up with a salvage title following a significant accident, fire or flood where an insurance company deemed the vehicle a total loss. These vehicles can subsequently end up at auctions and be resold for repair or sold for parts.


Something to bear in mind when purchasing a used vehicle is that the title status may not be clear and could even be "washed". State laws differ on how a consumer should be informed about the title so some in the auto business may move vehicles between different states in order to resell them without a branded title. A CarFax report will indicate if there has been a significant accident so make sure to ask for one before signing the dotted line.


Signs that a car has been previously salvaged

1. Missing car emblem or name on trunk may mean a non-OEM part was used.

2. Frayed seat belts or belt fibers that have been melted together because of friction indicate a previous front impact greater than 15 mph.

3. Inconsistent welds around hood apron, door, door frame, or trunk exhibit a non-factory weld.

4. Welding bead anywhere on heavy frame members underneath the engine suggests frame-rail sectioning or sloppy repair of a cutout made in the rail to perform repair work.

5. New metal on only one part of the hood apron shows section repair rather than replacement of the entire apron piece.

6. Damaged or gouged nuts and metal on top surface of strut tower (connects the front wheels to the frame) in engine compartment may mean the frame was realigned.

7. Uneven surfaces on frame components could be filler, seam sealer, or welding beads.

8. Big dents or kinks in structural components, or crimped fuel lines and pipes underneath are the easiest problems to find because rebuilders assume you won't be looking here.

9. Dashboard airbag indicator that won't light up could mean the airbag was replaced incorrectly - or not replaced at all - after an accident.

10. Dashboard lights, power windows and other electronics with intermittent problems can be signs of flood damage.

11. Hood or trunk that doesn't close squarely may indicate twisting from a side impact collision.

12. Doors that don't close correctly could be the result of a door-frame deformation and poor repair.

13. Fresh undercoating on wheel wells, chassis, or engine could suggest that structural repairs were recently covered up.

14. Silt in the trunk could mean flood damage.

15. Mold or air-freshener cover-up could suggest water damage from a leak or flood.

16. Uneven tread wear reveals wheel misalignment, potentially due to frame damage.

17. CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) sticker on any part may indicate collision repair.

18. Misaligned fenders suggest a poor repair job or use of non-OEM parts.

19. Paint overspray on chrome, trim, or rubber seals around body openings reveal that the adjacent panel was repaired.

20. Paint that chips off or doesn't match indicates damage repair and poor blending.


When looking at any pre-owned vehicle, it is recommended that you obtain a vehicle history report. This will enable you to see number of previous owners, any prior accidents and service history, the title status and more. If you are purchasing from a dealership look for the Buyer's Guide which they are required to display on the vehicle. If you purchase the vehicle, make sure you get a copy of the Buyer's Guide at time of sale. It says whether the vehicle is being sold "as is" or with a warranty, and what percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty.


When you finance a vehicle with AppCore you will always get a free copy of the vehicles history report and buyer's guide for that vehicle.


https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/forms-documents/Documents/SalvageandBranding_Just_the_Facts.pdf offers some more information specifically related to Minnesota vehicles. If you would like more information, you may contact Minnesota Department of Driver and Vehicle Services.

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